Psy does his iconic horse-riding dance during a free concert at Seoul Plaza, Thursday.
/ Korea Times
By Ana Nardelli
In Latin America, we all refer to Asia as the Very Far East, and for most, Korea is a remote place of which we only vaguely remember the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
That was of course, until a few months ago, when it became clearer than ever that the boundaries of style and cultural appreciation are becoming thinner and thinner. The guilty one is Psy with his “Gangnam Style”; the fact behind it is art is universal.
It’s evident that this too authentic, too light-spirited, and not-so-young Korean pop star has broken into the U.S. and European markets. But let’s not forget, he has also taken hold over the dance moves of people all over Latin America: YouTube has parodies in Spanish that have gone viral, wedding bands are giving out “Gangnam Style” paraphernalia, the song is the number one selling single in Mexico — Psy is everywhere!
Truth be told, we share more than family values and a taste for spicy food with the Koreans; we share the pride of a nation that yesterday took the form of one of the most significant cultural-musical trend events.
Psy’s performance in the heart of Seoul Thursday showed us the true colors of the city: an international metropolis, with the youngest and eldest moving together with a mix of flavors that spiced the souls of the hundreds of curious onlookers that ended up screaming and dancing.
It made me remember my hometown, Mexico City, also top in the list of the largest and most inhabited in the world, we have our own “plaza”, the Zocalo, to live and witness the most important events and to cheer along the most cherished international personalities and our best ambassadors to the world.
But let’s face it, it is easy to imagine thousands of Latinos cheering and dancing with the brightest mariachi music, holding a beer amidst the sunny weather. But none of us could have imagined thousands of the best-known as hard-working white-collar Koreans, as well as expats from all walks of life holding cups of tea or coffee and having the same easiness in the midst of the Korean capital.
Even though the song refers to the trendiest, jet-setter district in Seoul, the horse dance and the whole “Gangnam Style” phenomenon is just so authentic and easy going that it brings a breath of fresh air to anyone that lives it, and we all definitively need it in this stressful time: forget about hard news, style, conventions and pretentions.
Ironically, this is what has created a new style, a bridge between Korea and the world, a new trademark that without trying has become more iconic than Haechi Seoul.
I expected the event to run smoothly and in an orderly manner, as it did the whole way. But after watching everyone singing and dancing, laughing and cheering, it became evident that between East and West we also share a light and bright spirited side, something that brings us together to enjoy and take pride in ourselves, something that Psy has also been “guilty” of sharing with us.
Ana Nardelli is an international journalist and anthropologist currently based in Seoul.